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Freedom to Tinker

Research and expert commentary on digital technologies in public life

Last Build Date: Fri, 19 Jan 2018 15:57:57 +0000


Automating Inequality: Virginia Eubanks Book Launch at Data & Society

Thu, 18 Jan 2018 22:18:14 +0000

What does it mean for public sector actors to implement algorithms to make public services to be more efficient? How are these systems experienced by the families and people who face the consequences? Speaking at the Data and Society Institute today is Virginia Eubanks, author of the new book Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, […]

Website operators are in the dark about privacy violations by third-party scripts

Fri, 12 Jan 2018 13:49:23 +0000

by Steven Englehardt, Gunes Acar, and Arvind Narayanan. Recently we revealed that “session replay” scripts on websites record everything you do, like someone looking over your shoulder, and send it to third-party servers. This en-masse data exfiltration inevitably scoops up sensitive, personal information — in real time, as you type it. We released the data […]

Roundup: My First Semester as a Post-Doc at Princeton

Thu, 11 Jan 2018 17:21:26 +0000

As Princeton thaws from under last week’s snow hurricane, I’m taking a moment to reflect on my first four months in the place I now call home. This roundup post shares highlights from my first semester as a post-doc in Psychology, CITP, and Sociology. So far, I have had an amazing experience: The Paluck Lab […]

Singularity Skepticism 4: The Value of Avoiding Errors

Wed, 10 Jan 2018 12:56:57 +0000

[This is the fourth in a series of posts. The other posts in the series are here: 1 2 3.] In the previous post, we did a deep dive into chess ratings, as an example of a system to measure a certain type of intelligence. One of the takeaways was that the process of numerically […]

Singularity Skepticism 3: How to Measure AI Performance

Mon, 08 Jan 2018 12:28:36 +0000

[This is the third post in a series. The other posts are here: 1 2 4] On Thursday I wrote about progress in computer chess, and how a graph of Elo rating (which I called the natural measure of playing skill) versus time showed remarkably consistent linear improvement over several decades. I used this to argue […]

Singularity Skepticism 2: Why Self-Improvement Isn’t Enough

Thu, 04 Jan 2018 12:30:24 +0000

[This is the second post in a series. The other posts are here: 1 3 4] Yesterday, I wrote about the AI Singularity, and why it won’t be a literal singularity, that is, why the growth rate won’t literally become infinite. So if the Singularity won’t be a literal singularity, what will it be? Recall that […]

Why the Singularity is Not a Singularity

Wed, 03 Jan 2018 11:27:55 +0000

This is the first in a series of posts about the Singularity, that notional future time when machine intelligence explodes in capability, changing human life forever. Like many computer scientists, I’m a Singularity skeptic. In this series I’ll be trying to express the reasons for my skepticism–and workshopping ideas for an essay on the topic […]

No boundaries for user identities: Web trackers exploit browser login managers

Wed, 27 Dec 2017 16:35:08 +0000

In this second installment of the No Boundaries series, we show how a long-known vulnerability in browsers’ built-in password managers is abused by third-party scripts for tracking on more than a thousand sites. by Gunes Acar, Steven Englehardt, and Arvind Narayanan We show how third-party scripts exploit browsers’ built-in login managers (also called password managers) […]

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How have In-Flight Web Page Modification Practices Changed over the Past Ten Years?

Tue, 19 Dec 2017 15:53:02 +0000

When we browse the web, there are many parties and organizations that can see which websites we visit, because they sit on the path between web clients (our computers and mobile devices), and the web servers hosting the sites we request. Most obviously, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are responsible for transmitting our web traffic, but […]

Why the FCC should prevent ISPs from micromanaging our lives

Tue, 12 Dec 2017 21:37:04 +0000

Why the FCC should prevent ISPs from micromanaging our lives by Brett Frischmann and Evan Selinger* Network neutrality prevents broadband Internet service providers from micromanaging our lives online. Constraining the networks this way enables and even empowers Internet users to be active and productive human beings rather than passive consumers. Unfortunately, the network neutrality debate […]